CHARLES GRAHAM - Sad day if compassion is legislated

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SOMETHING has gone seriously wrong with UK health care when the National Pensioners’ Convention feels the need to propose a new “dignity code” for elderly patients.

And yet we have this serious proposal for care workers and nurses which demands that elderly patients are not treated simply as “objects”. Politicians on both sides of the Commons, The Royal College of Nursing, the TUC, and charities including AGE UK are among supporters and some hope it could eventually have this new code written into carers’ contracts.

It has similarities to the Hippocratic oath sworn by doctors. But that’s as much a tradition tied in with an inherent expectation of good practice and compassion.

That so many people feel pensioners are being so maltreated or disrespected by the NHS in this day and age that new sanctions are needed is another matter.

It should be stressed that the problem staff are still in a small minority and I realise they are worked off their feet and that despite Government pledges not to cut front line employees in the NHS, those remaining are busier than ever.

But this call for a code has not arisen recently but something that has been getting worse for years, including during that period when health service spending doubled.

So it’s not just about cuts, it’s about personality and common sense.

It was suggested this week that care workers should be selected first on whether they liked people or not and then given the relevant medical training. That’s a bit harsh in presuming that the default position of every nurse is that an elderly patient is a nuisance.

But it costs neither time nor money to be nice to someone and I would think the job satisfaction reward would be welcome too.